Police recover van fitted for boy with autism, wheelchair still missing

2:40 PM, Oct 26, 2010   |    comments
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UPDATE: St. Paul Police have recovered the van stolen from a family that uses it to take their autistic son to the doctor. Police say a driver noticed the van traveling near Western and University Aves. Monday afternoon.

The driver called 9-1-1 and gave the dispatcher the van's location until officers could stop it at Fuller and Lexington Aves. A man and a woman were arrested.

A family member tells KARE-11 the wheelchair for the autistic boy was not in the van.

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ST. PAUL, Minn. -- A St. Paul mother is hoping someone will return the family van she uses to bring her autistic son to doctors appointments.

On Sunday morning, Sue Klingenberg planned to take her son for a drive to see fall colors.

"One of the joys of his life is riding in the car," says Sue.

The plan changed when Sue walked outside and noticed the family van was missing. It was stolen, Sue says, from where it was parked right next to the house.

"I went into shock and my main concern was how do I transport Mike. How do I get him anywhere," says Sue.

Now for most of us, our cars get us from point a to point b.

But for Sue and Michael their 1983 Chevy Vandura was a lifeline.

18-year-old Michael has severe autism and a lot of difficulty getting around. Sue needed the van to get him to doctor's appointments. But it was also a way to experience the world for a kid who's had a tough ride.

"There is not a lot that he can do so the few things that he can do we want to keep in place for him," says Sue.

Police say someone stole the van between 5 a.m. and 10 a.m. Sunday morning from Tatum and Minnehaha in St. Paul's Midway neighborhood.

"We're asking the public to pay special attention to be on the lookout for this van. It has some unique features that would stand out," says Officer John Keating with the St. Paul Police Department.

Michael's wheelchair was also in the van. It's gone too, along with several other personal items.

"That car was everything to us. I have done a lot of things to the car to make it perfect for Michael and with autism it's important to keep things the same."

"They took something away from a disabled child who already has enough difficulty in his life and we simply would like someone to return the car."

Sue tells KARE 11 that children with autism often are creatures of habit so it will be very difficult she says for Michael to understand that the van is gone and why.

And his family is also very concerned as winter approaches about how they will get around.

Michael recently started having seizures and has many upcoming doctors' appointments.

The van is a 1983 Chevy Vandura - Minnesota license plate M-H-U-8-7-6 it's blue and white.

Anyone with information should call 911.

(Copyright 2010 by KARE. All Rights Reserved.)

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